Emi-Beth Quantson: There is still so much I want to do

Emi Beth-Quantson

[In picture above, Emi Beth Quantson at SheHive Accra 2016]

As part of SheHive Accra 2016, I caught up with Emi-Beth Quantson, CEO and founder of Kawa Moka, after her talk on how she won Startup Cup Ghana. Kawa Moka is a “social enterprise coffee shop and creative space” that empowers underprivileged women through employment and mentorship.

The Startup Cup competition provides opportunities for entrepreneurs to network and gain financial support, which were essential for Kawa Moka to thrive.


What was your childhood like?

I had a very happy childhood. I have two older brothers who used to bully me shamelessly. And as my parents always entertained, we had to serve. I think that is where the interest in hospitality came from because my parents were always throwing parties – entertaining, they told jokes.

We used to have Christmases where all our cousins would come together and we will have nine lessons and carols and sing and do firecrackers. It was pretty cool.

What dreams did you have growing up?

A lot! I wanted to do so much. I still want to do so much. One of the things I wanted when I was in Ashesi [University] was to be the first woman governor of the Bank of Ghana.

I still have not lost that ambition. I am just praying that nobody gets there first. I still want to go to grad school, maybe go back into corporate and do something finance, sort of setup Kawa Moka, and then afterwards have it run a little and do something else.

I have a million and one ideas. We will see which ones get done and which ones do not. But there are a lot of things I want to do with my life.

What would you say are some of the influences that have shaped you into the woman you are today?

I come from a close knit family, and I would say my mum, aunt, and grandmother were my closest influences on my mum’s side. And on my dad’s side, there were also a lot of women – aunties and grandma. I guess each family sort of taught me different value sets and opened me up to different experiences.

I remember my grandma was always concerned about me: she calls me Aku. She was always like, “Oh Aku, what are you doing again? You say you want to do this or you don’t want to this, ohh”. She is always concerned and finding ways to impart knowledge from way back, not try to necessarily put me down, but then she will use some nice way of telling you that, hey you should do this.

And it was fun to have all those family gatherings so I think my family has probably been my largest influence.

How was your transition from Ashesi University  into the corporate world?

Very easy. I worked part time in my final year of school. I worked part time for Ghana Home loans so I had some corporate experience.

My final internship was at PWC so before I graduated, I already had a job and had already gained experience in that job. As such, it was a very easy transition for me – I did not have to send out a million CVs.

You have a background in consulting. What would you say are some of the key skills that make you a successful consultant?

Being able to think on your feet. Even though a lot of assignments have a lot of similarities, everything is unique in its own way. For every assignment, you need to think on your feet and find innovative solutions based on the parameters that you are given.

I think that is a key skill. Another key skill is networking and just learning how to talk to clients and establish a relationship because a lot of the consulting assignments are based on relationships. They feel the connectivity because you give them the best solution and you do it with a smile and you do it nicely.

So, I would say those are the two key skills, and of course the analytics is a given. You need to have the technical skills. A lot of which, if you are working with a multinational they will teach you, but you can also teach yourself.

You are the CEO and founder of Kawa Moka as well as the CFO at Impact Hub. How do you juggle all these responsibilities?

With Impact Hub, I am transitioning. We are hopefully going to put out a job description for finance manager so that at least I can have support in the sense of the day to day stuff. But I mean it has not been so hard.

I have had a lot of support from the Impact Hub team so there are other team members who sort of put in data and do the rudimentary stuff as well so that helps me with balancing.

But it has also not been easy because, of course, you have your peak seasons running your own business. I also do a bit of consulting on the side so that has been a challenge as well.

Emi Beth-Quantson

Some days you wish there are more than 24 hours in a day, but I think one tool that helps with balancing is communication – just make sure you set realistic deadlines and then you work to make sure you accomplish them.

I also take courses all the time on setting smart goals and managing time just to remind myself how to be efficient and plan things out properly.

How has being an entrepreneur affected your personal life?

My husband is really fantastic. He is like my number one fan. He is always like, “why are you not doing this?” So he is giving me that male aggression in my business. He always pushes me to make sure I get to the next level and stay honest with my goals and visions.

 So even though sometimes, I spend late nights at work or do events, he understands and he always asks how he can support me. It has been a bit harder on the weekends, especially if there are family events. I have missed a couple.

As I have slowly built capacity at Kawa Moka, I have not had to be there all the time because my capable team keep on top of things.

What motivates you? What keeps you going?

What keeps me going is having something in my head, believing it should be out there, and building it to get to that point. Basically, trying to achieve what you believe is possible. It keeps me going because at every level, I’m like ‘ok, I am here now, but I want to be here so how do I get there?’

And then just a reminder that I want to be at a different level sort of pushes me to get up, to stop being lazy and think about the next thing. So you have hit a roadblock, it is not the end of the world. What is the way around? Do you jump off?

This perspective keeps me honest as well. Also knowing that there is so much I want to do with my life gives me that pressure that ,”time waits for no man”, you need to get it done, you need to move to the next stage drive.

Also, just how do I let other people do a lot more? Because obviously, you cannot do everything by yourself. How can you get other people’s input so that it is a team effort and I am not dependent on just me.

With all of these experiences, what would you say has been your greatest accomplishment?

That is tough. I think it is staying true to myself. Every stage I have been in my life, I have explored, I have challenged myself to be better, to accomplish more and not necessarily be confined by the expectations of society.

For me, it is that ability to stay true and still earn money and still create things that for me. I think is my greatest accomplishment.

Want to learn more about Emi Beth-Quantson, read this ’07 feature of her on Ashesi University’s career services page.


Want to see women you know featured on SLA? Tell us what amazing things women are doing in your communities here.

Quick 1 Min Guide: Tips to quality, engaging social media content

Social Media

Are you looking to improving your business? How do you engage your audience online?  

Below are 7 tools SLA Cofounder, Afua Osei, shared on enhancing social media strategy at SheHive Accra 2016.

1. Determine the objectives of your business

How can social media meet the goals of your brand?

 

2. Choose the platform(s) for your target audience

social media explained

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

 

3. Conduct research to help you generate content

What hashtags, pictures, and or videos are trending?

 

4. Be consistent in your approach to branding

branding guidelines

Use the same format (font, colours, logos, etc.) and language to communicate to your community every time.

5. Develop material that is unique to your business

unique-really_o_1463341Be clear about who you are and what you are trying to accomplish.

 

6. Proactively interact with audience

You can use an app like Crowdfire to manage your subscribers and tag photos of followers that use your product/service.

 

7. Gather and analyze data from your social media to see if your strategy is working.

You can use analytics from Facebook, Twitter or platforms such as Iconosquare and Bitly.

Dziffa Ametam: Tools and tips for building an e-commerce site

From Amazon to Alibaba to Jumia, ecommerce has taken the global retail market by storm. Data suggests the trend is here to stay. With internet penetration improving across Africa, we expect ecommerce industry to expand.

Dziffa Ametam of Dziffa is on a mission to create an online marketplace for authentic handmade African goods. For any one who had spent time on the continent Africa, this is no easy feat. Internet speed and pricing are two of several hurdles ecommerce business have to surmount.

In this piece, Ametam shares tips that have helped her build her business, and pitfalls to avoid.

Can you give us some insight to some of the important tools you started out with?

1.  Stick To Your Principle

At Dziffa, our principle was simple: sell authentic handmade African goods that add value to our local economy and expand the global reach of our local artisans. We started by combing Ghana for artisans who made high quality goods from locally sourced raw materials.

We partnered with them, providing professional photography, branding, and marketing services free of charge. As they had nothing to lose, they agreed to the partnership, and that helped stock the site with products that are aligned to our principle of creating a store with authentic African goods.

2.  Focus on the Supply Chain

Most ecommerce sites fail because they are unable to meet demand. It was very important for us to maintain consistency by fulfilling all orders. This sounds very basic but it is actually the hardest part of our job. We work with artisans from various regions and each has his or her own challenges with getting the products to us on time.

I moved to Ghana to ensure that all orders, no matter how small, would be fulfilled. Fulfilment is crucial to turning curious customers to loyal customers. Someone could buy a bookmark out of curiosity, but if she received it on time and is satisfied with it, she just might become a loyal customer. Plus, her friends will know about her new discovery.

Pitfalls to avoid

Getting heavily involved with manufacturing. Because we work hand in hand with artisans, we are always tempted to get involved with the manufacturing process.

This was a big distraction in the very early days of Dziffa. We would get consumed with the manufacturing process that we didn’t have time to focus on our core responsibility, which is selling.

SLA1

What are some tools you started without that you soon realized were necessary?

Social Media, Blogs, and Magazines.

Stories matter and we underestimated the power of storytelling in the very early stages of Dziffa. We communicate to our audience through our weekly blog post and bring them along with us on our journey. We reach out to magazines to share our discoveries. We also leverage social media to brand and sell beyond our immediate market,Ghana.

What is your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs trying to get into the e-commerce space?

1. Do your research

I cannot stress this enough. As an entrepreneur, every mistake you make is costly. Do your research or speak to someone who has been down a similar path. Make sure you thoroughly research the market you are going into and fully understand the opportunities and challenges.

2.  Embrace the struggle

Entrepreneurship is not easy. You will be faced with a lot of challenges. Embrace the struggle; they teach you a lot about yourself and your potential. Remain persistent and always remember why you chose this path.

You can learn more about Dziffa? You can find out more on her website and social media pages – Facebook and Instagram.  Want to learn more about ecommerce or running an ecommerce business? Comment below and let us know.

 

Twitter Chat with Anita Erskine: Finding career breakthroughs and opportunities (Jan 18)

Anita-Erskine

Don’t miss another event! Join our community and always stay informed.

Anita Erksine

If 2016 is the year that you want a career breakthrough, then join us on Monday January 18 for a honest and candid twitter chat with Anita Erskine, celebrated radio and television host as well as founder of Brand Woman Africa.

We’ll be discussing with Anita these critical topics:

  • Where does she see young Ghanaian women struggling in the workforce?
  • What was her career breakthrough moment?
  • How did she find mentors to help build her career?
  • How has she created a family life that works with her busy career?
  • What advice would she give to young women who don’t feel confident in achieving their dreams?

Want to join in the discussion? Follow She Leads Africa, Anita Erskine and Brand Woman Africa on twitter and use the hashtag #SLAChats.

 

 

 

 

 

About Anita Erskine

The bi-lingual Anita Erskine hosts “Making Of A Mogul”,”Cooking With….” and  “Pamper Your Mum” – three popular shows on the DSTV platform, championing the “Best Of Africa” brand. The Multi -Talented presenter, producer, oral narrator and entrepreneur balances hosting live events for Multi nationals such as Vlisco, Ecobank Transnational Incorporated and Globacom, whilst taking the world of TV by storm. Anita had her first encounter with television at Metro TV in 1997.  The very next year, she decided to take a long break to travel and study from 1998 till 2006. Upon her return to Ghana in 2006, Anita knew it was time to truly begin her career in Television!  She returned to the screens in 2007 through MNET Africa’s Studio 53 and plunged into the deep end of this burgeoning industry in Africa. Anita loves the challenge of being involved in TV formats that educate, inform, entertain and ultimately change peoples’ perceptions of social norms in Africa!  “Hosting Mogul, Cooking With and Pamper your Mum have deepened my desire to use my passions, talents and skills to help increase the promise of Africa – one word at a time!”

Brand Woman Africa

Anita Erskine designed BrandWoman Africa to be an organization that projects the advancement of women across all African societies and in the Diaspora through Television. With her innate desire to showcase the vision, determination and drive that almost every African Woman is celebrated for, BWA develops TV formats and platforms which explore the Lifestyle, Fashion, Social Advancement and Political Ambitions  of the Modern African Woman. BWA boasts about who this new African Woman is – simply a Brand to herself. Her Beauty emanating from her inner strength, which then translates into her outer elegance. BWA works in partnership and association with like – minded Female Creative and Corporate individuals from around the Continent of Africa and across the Globe.

 

Rahama Wright: No is a pathway to yes, eventually

Rahama Wright she leads africa

Young African entrepreneurs have turned their sights to manufacturing on the continent with new fervor. Just as the world has come to know China for its manufacturing prowess through the Made in China brand, many young Africans look to do likewise with finished products from the continent.

To provide insights and effective strategies for aspiring young entrepreneurs and professionals, we’ve turned our gaze to African brands pioneering their Made in Africa products to the global market. Rahama Wright, Founder and CEO of beauty brand, Shea Yeleen, is one such mogul. Wright says what others see as ready baked success is a 10-year journey of persistence and openness to failure and learning.

Wright’s work is influenced by her mother’s story and those of women in Northern Ghana and Mali where she worked and volunteered right after college. In 2005, Rahama Wright founded Shea Yeleen International, a social enterprise with a mission to provide living wages to women shea butter producers in West Africa.

The enterprise’s profit arm, Shea Yeleen Health & Beauty LLC, was founded in 2012 and manufactures and distributes shea based products to international markets. Foot to the pedal and consistent hard work has brought Shea Yeleen to more than 100 Whole Foods Markets and independent stores. It is worth noting that Whole Foods is a Fortune 500 global supermarket chain.

Shea Yeleen Producers

In Part 1 of this feature, Wright unveiled the secrets of her marketing sauce that has landed her coveted product placements and press features. She shared how using one’s personal brand can position you for success. Wright told her story better than anyone could and it is her openness and commitment to sharing her insight with all aspiring entrepreneurs and marketers that left a lasting impression.

So to start, some questions on getting Shea Yeleen to market. How were you able to get your products into Whole Foods?

This is the advice I would give to someone who is just starting out and trying to get their products into retail: Be persistent! I pitched 3 times before I was able to get my items into Whole Foods. One thing I have learned is that NO can be a pathway to YES, eventually.

Of course, you should get feedback and understand why you are getting the NOs; don’t write it off as a rejection but as a way to improve for the next pitch. The primary reasons I was rejected 3 times was because I was talking to the wrong buyer and I needed better packaging.

I upgraded my packaging including putting the soaps in boxes instead of sleeves, and used the space on the packaging to share our community development story and the benefits of our ingredients. I also created packaging that would pop off shelves by comparing my packaging to brands that were already on the shelf. This helped me better position my products. In short, if you want to get into retail, first pitch, adjust your pitch and product based on feedback and keep pitching until you get a yes!

Also, if you are not getting traction in one area, move to another area to get in front of the right buyer. I wasn’t getting traction in one Whole Foods region and moved to another region. Getting in front of the right buyer required identifying someone who was looking for and thinking about products that Shea Yeleen was offering.

The [final] thing is start small. For some retailers, you have to pay thousands of dollars to get your products in and if you don’t do well, they kick you out, which will cost you more money. Understanding the differences between big box retailers is really important.

Shea Yeleen Product Images

In terms of strategy, did you employ different methods getting into the local retailers like the mom and pop shops than you did the larger retailers like Whole Foods?

They are almost the same but Whole Foods is a bit more corporate than the independent stores. A mom and pop shop is more accessible, because you can schedule a meeting with the owner or buyer and say, ‘would you give me a chance and bring my products in?’ and that’s literally what I did.

I’ve learned about working with sales brokers, and there is a whole industry around sales brokers and distributors that’s a part of retail, and I made the mistake of relying too much on sales brokers who just did not deliver. Early on in your business you are the sales person. I wasted thousands of dollars on the wrong sales brokers.

Even though it is hard and takes a lot of time to go door to door, you need to build your business initially until you get to the point where you can attract the right talent to manage that business. The region that is our best region, I opened all of those stores; I literally went door to door and was able to cultivate a really great relationship with the regional buyer.

Shea Yeleen Product Images

We also brought two of the shea producers from Tamale, Ghana here to the U.S. and they toured the stores with me, which was an incredible experience for the customers and the shea producers, who could now see where their shea butter ends up. This is an important part of the Shea Yeleen mission.

It is not just about getting an African product and selling it. It is really about opening the doors for women producers of that product to understand the global supply chain and what they are a part of. Although the women come from rural communities, they can still be global leaders in the marketplace.

What about other distribution channels? I know that you were recently in the subscription beauty box, Curlbox. Do you plan on doing more subscription boxes?

We’ve done 2 subscription boxes and the verdict is still out. I believe that these subscription boxes are geared towards brands that are more well-known than smaller companies.

My advice is don’t do a subscription box if it is just about getting a sample in a box. You should have an entire marketing strategy around getting into a box that employs social media, couponing, and driving traffic to your website. You have to be very strategic about giving away free product because it costs you money.

It is probably more valuable to give products to potential buyers than to do a box. If I am giving away 5000 free samples, I’d prefer to give them to buyers in stores so that they can give samples to their customers. This level of store support is much more beneficial than just giving free product to a box that may not convert to customers.

If you decide to do a box, try to get some analytics. Participation in a subscription box might not convert to customers but being able to get data on your potential customers may be beneficial for future marketing tactics.

You have received wonderful press, from Oprah to Black Enterprise to Women’s Health Magazine, how did you attract those press product features?

The Oprah feature happened because of a leadership program I applied to with the magazine and an organization called the White House Project. Even though I didn’t know if Oprah was going to be present, I made sure to be prepared. I came with 100 handmade gift boxes.

I brought enough for everyone who was attending, including beauty editors and writers. Since I was the only person who brought a product, I was able to stand out. A direct result of my preparation was a spotlight in the beauty section in Oprah Magazine a few months after the leadership program!

Is print press an important tool in your marketing strategy? Do you consistently reach out to press?

We do reach out. Print press won’t give you sales conversion but what it will do is give your brand credibility and help to open doors. Getting into Oprah Magazine was something that I could reference when I was pitching my products.

People tend to think if you get into a magazine feature, all of a sudden you are making millions of dollars. That is not necessarily the case. It is about creating brand presence and credibility that allows you to get access to other resources and tools.

Are there other tools or strategies that you have found allows you to connect Made-In-Africa narrative with local brands and retailers in the U.S.?

Doing speaking gigs has been an important tool to getting my story out. I have spoken at various events from the U.N., the U.S. State Department, and several universities. I’ve traveled to 6 embassies throughout Africa as a guest speaker on issues around women, entrepreneurship, youth development and these opportunities have opened doors and built credibility. Additionally, it’s a way to tell your brand story in your voice.

rsz_anatu_2_1

If you do nothing else for your business, you have to tell your story. I think this is lacking when it comes to African products. Either someone else is bringing our products to market or someone else is telling the story of that product. Although shea butter has been in the U.S. market for decades, in 2015 people still do not know where it comes from, or what the raw material looks like.

They think it comes from a calabash because that is how they see it sold at farmers markets. When we are talking about African branding and as we bring our products to market, it is all about sharing the true authentic story of where these products are coming from.

You just mentioned this in your last answer, but just to be clear, how has your own personal brand helped with your marketing strategy with Shea Yeleen? You mentioned speaking engagements, but are there any other ways your personal brand and work has helped with marketing the company?

The fact that I have direct ties has been really important. I think there has been a huge shift over the last few years around Africa in general. I definitely remember when people wanted to be very separate from the continent, when it wasn’t cool to be African or come from the continent. I believe that is changing and it is changing because Africans are beginning to tell our own story.

When I talk about our producers, I talk about Joanna and Gladys and Tene. They aren’t just vague numbers or statistics, they are people. I think this has been the difference when it comes to Africans creating our own companies and bringing products to market. We have a greater connection to our products and I think people want to be more open and connect to these stories and products.

I did Peace Corps because I genuinely wanted to learn more about the people that I have direct connection to. I’m African, I’m Ghanaian and this has been a huge part of why I created Shea Yeleen.

Would you recommend that founders establish or connect more directly with their companies? I know that the narrative has changed from founders being on the back-end to, with more recent brands and companies, hearing more about the personal narratives of the  founders. Would that be your perspective?

Absolutely. People don’t simply buy things; they buy from people. Founders shouldn’t become obsessed with themselves in anyway but it is important that people are able to connect with whoever is behind that brand or product, whether it’s the founders, the team members, or the producers.

I think more and more, especially with the millennial generation, people care about where their products are coming from, they are becoming more inquisitive and that’s why you see these large brands coming out with corporate social responsibility divisions 50 years after they have created the company.

Social responsibility should be the core of your company from the beginning. And I think that’s why more of us are creating companies that are impactful, and telling the story from day one, and that’s important.


Want more of Rahama Wright’s story? Stay tuned for Part II where Wright shares gems about social media and bringing her brand to African markets.

 

Rita Kusi shares 6 tips on how to make your marketing stand out

coke billboard marketing africa

Are you having difficulties marketing and or selling to an African audience? Perhaps you should reevaluate your marketing techniques.

Prior to relocating to Ghana, my way of marketing and working was mainly digital and via online platforms. After relocating, I realized that while these methods were very effective abroad, they were not as effective in reaching a large audience in Ghana. This is probably the case in most African countries. Digital and online marketing, commonly known as Above The Line (ATL) marketing, is a great way to target the urban youth and the global audience.

However, if you want to reach adults and local residents living in rural areas, your best bet is to use effective Below The Line (BTL) marketing techniques, such as, on-the-ground activations and promotions.

In Ghana, ATL marketing is effective because most people are almost always tuned into their local radio or television stations. The use of the internet has only increased recently because of the rising use of mobile technology. As a marketer, you have to know how to adapt to this environment.

The solution is not to give up on the old tactics you know or are familiar with but instead, effectively incorporate new strategies to help you become a well-rounded marketer.

So what characteristics do you need to be a great marketer in the African context? What marketing strategies are effective for engaging the African market? Well, I discuss them below.

Characteristics of a great African marketer

I’ve always considered myself lucky to have the skills of a marketer. At times, I wonder if one is born a marketer or can learn to become a marketer. I believe effective marketers are born with certain traits and also learn as they go. The world is always changing so we must be able to change with the times. Here are 10 characteristics that are time tested to be true of an great African marketer:

  • Have a genuine passion for people
  • Honest, personable and approachable
  • Possess networking skills
  • Embrace and drive change
  • Stay connected to an African audience
  • Communicate effectively
  • Passionate
  • Innovative and thinks outside the box
  • Take chances
  • Wholehearted belief in the product they are selling

Motherland Mogul Tip:Remember, good marketers can market and sell any product, but great marketers choose the products they want to market and sell.

They are persistent and do not understand the word “no”. Good marketers are led by passion and the need to connect the right people to the right product. They understand their target demographic and will go to great lengths to connect them to that product. Next, we discuss strategies for marking effectively in the African context.

Strategies for marketing effectively in the African market

Now, with these characteristics, you must be willing to do some things differently to gain traction in the African market. Let’s discuss a few strategies below.

1. Establish strong genuine relationships

Often many of us like to take the conventional networking approach. I’ve been guilty of this in the past. We attend an event, meet someone and have a two-minute conversation then request for a business card.

Effective marketers actually take the time to follow up and establish rapport with potential clients, sponsors, partners, and their audience. In Ghana, it is all about who you know. Therefore, establishing relationships is crucial to your success in almost any field.

2. Sustain relationships

One of the most important lessons I have learned is that it is not enough to establish relationships with people. Sustaining those relationships plays a crucial role in the success of your marketing strategies. It is one thing to establish relationships but what are you doing to sustain them?

Sustaining relationships are one of the hardest and most challenging things to do because it requires time. It is none the less a great investment. An occasional phone call, email, or visit helps you to stay connected.

3. Form strategic alliances/partnerships

It is a fact that we all need someone and cannot get to where we are going alone. Form strategic partnerships that are mutually beneficial. Align yourself with people who have a similar mission and your best interest at heart. They will help you sell or market your product.

In Ghana, having notable sponsors and partners as part of your event validates your event somehow. Rarely do you see fliers or posters without sponsors. However, you want to be strategic in forming these alliances and not overdo it.

4. Networkability

Word-of-mouth continues to be the #1 effective way of marketing. As a marketer, it is your responsibility to go out and network constantly. Whether your goal is to increase your clientele or fan base, go out there and meet the right people who will help get you to your goal.

True marketers understand that time is of the essence. There is no need speaking with everyone in the room, just key people who you share commonalities and a similar vision.

5. Communicate effectively and believe in the product

As a marketer your verbal and written communication must be up to par. You have to believe in what you are selling in order for people to believe in it as well.

Therefore, your way of communicating must be clear, concise, convincing, and easily understood.

6. Think marketing

True marketers are always thinking about marketing. They apply marketing to almost any and everything around them.

To conclude, marketing in Africa is very different from marketing in the States or elsewhere outside of the continent. Sitting behind your PC expecting to reach a large number of consumers is not ideal. Bottom Line Marketing is king! You must be willing to go out and connect with people.